Q&A with Artist Jennifer Rivera

“She Preferred the Rain”, 70″x65″, mixed media on canvas

Artist Jennifer Rivera has been at dk Gallery since 2010. Throughout the years, Rivera has mingled her thoughtful visual art with performance and written works. Her stirring creations have proven popular among collectors and designers.

Like the beautiful images she creates, her life is energetic and inspiring. A resident of Kansas, we don’t get to see her often. We caught up with her for a fun Q&A just before the Holidays. Here’s what she had to say:

dk: You work exclusively in nonrepresentational abstracts. What is it about this style that first attracted you?

JR: I’ve worked in several different genres in the past like portraiture and abstract landscapes, but what I love about non-representational abstracts is the freedom it provides. Not only is the artist free to express without the constraints of rules and reason, the viewer is afforded the freedom to openly and uniquely interpret the art. Each and every time someone views a piece of art, they have a unique experience. However, in representational art that experience is limited to the subject matter. So, someone may see a painting of a vase of flowers and it might remind them of the flowers they recently received from a lover. Someone else might view that painting and remember their grandmother’s favorite vase or their mom’s favorite flower. All of these experiences are unique to the viewer, but are a response to the actual object they are seeing. In abstract expressionism, there are no guidelines. The experience is completely open-ended which allows the viewer the freedom to experience the piece in countless ways.

dk:  Some painters use very vague titles for their paintings, even applying monikers to a series like Untitled 1-15. Your paintings have alluring titles like “She Never Plays the Fool” or “Good for the Goose.” How do you name your paintings? Do your titles come first, or do they evolve?

JR: It sort of depends. As you know, for years I have painted in response to poetry. Writers submit their work for consideration, and if chosen I paint my response their work. It’s sort of a reverse ekphrasis. When I work this way, the titles are pulled from the poetry itself. I love the rhythm of language, so often I will hear a phrase that resonates in me, like “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” or “a place for everything, and everything in its place” After these groupings of words float around in my head for a few days, I’m compelled to paint them.  And then other times the titles emerge as I paint.

dk: You recently caught the attention of HG Television Designer Jen Bertrand. How did that come about?

I first learned about her when I was watching a season of Design Star on HGTV, and LOVED her designs. Somehow we connected on Facebook, and then she began inquiring about my work. She used my work in a few corporate designs she did, and then she commissioned 2 large pieces for her home.

dk: You always tackle your work with an air of fearlessness. What scares you?

JR: What scares me?….EVERYTHING!! As a young child I was a risk-taker, but somewhere along the line that changed and I became very thoughtful, deliberate, and cautious.  Because of that, I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities to do things, see things, and try things even though I really wanted to. I’ve recently been trying to broaden my horizons though, and I’m beginning to check some things off my bucket list that I never thought I’d do.

dk: What or who is your biggest influence on your art at this point in your career?

JR: Helen Frankenthaler has always been a huge influence on my work. She emerged onto the art scene in NY with her unique soak/stain method in the 1950’s during the abstract expressionism movement, and she was a force to be reckoned with. She read the rules, knew the rules, and understood the rules…then she unapologetically tossed those rules out the window and did her own thing. And she did it magnificently.

dk:  Currently in the media, there seems to be a shift taking place concerning the acceptable treatment of women in the workplace. Strong women are becoming the center of the conversations. What effect, if any, have these conversations had on your work as a strong female voice in the art world?

JR: Women have been conditioned to be polite, to avoid stepping on people’s toes, to be grateful for what they get regardless of whether they deserve better or not. Because of this conditioning, I think many female artists – myself included –  find it difficult to stand up and defend their work — to demand it gets its due attention. So, while the conversations regarding the treatment of women in the work place have not necessarily impacted my work itself, I see that it is actively impacting how I am presenting it, and defending it, and demanding respect of it.

“She Packed Her Bags and Headed South”, 54″ X 54″, mixed media on canvas

dk: What is the book currently on your nightstand?

JR: I have a stack of books on my nightstand. Some are neurology books that I SHOULD be reading. Some are novels that I’d LIKE to be reading. None are books that I actually AM reading. LOL

dk: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

JR: I’m inclined to say my three kids are my greatest achievement, but the truth is they are who they are. All three of them are incredible, talented, kind individuals, and I just happen to be really lucky to be their mom. So… I don’t know what my greatest achievement is – maybe it’s yet to come.

dk: What living person do you admire the most?

JR: I had to think long and hard about this one. There are so many good people in this world, I could never just choose one and say, “I admire him/her the most” BUT… I did recently see an interview with Lady Gaga and she said some things that were very poignant, and relevant in the world we are currently living in. It has stuck with me and placed her at the top of my “admirable people” list.

“[…]We are unified in our humanity, and the only thing that we all know, we all appreciate in one another, is kindness. So, this has to come before all things, and you must operate relentlessly this way. With everything you have. […]”

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